News Article

Broadway Showdown

Protests mar opening night of ''Miss Saigon'' -- Demonstrators claim that show is racist and sexist

While stretch limos dropped off the ritzy opening-night audience of Miss Saigon, the most expensive ($10 million) stage musical in Broadway history, another drama went on across the street from New York's Broadway Theater. Shepherded by about 120 police officers, an equal number of demonstrators marched in circles, chanting, ''Racist, sexist Broadway show! Miss Saigon has got to go!'' They objected to the casting of a white man, Jonathan Pryce (star of the film Brazil), in the lead role, a character of part-Asian ancestry. ''What next?'' demanded one sign, ''Pryce as M.L. King?'' ''White actors have been playing Asians for years,'' complained protester James Jaewhan Lee. ''Yellowface has really got to go the way of blackface.''

Protesters also deplored the effect of Miss Saigon's barely clad bar-girls on the image of Asians. ''No more sacrificial exotic Oriental sex toys!'' said a sign. Others read, ''Artistic freedom to play geishas, gangsters & gooks,'' ''Yellow faces, white lies,'' and ''Broadway truly is the great white way.'' But most theatergoers seemed to ignore the protest. TV crews, finding nobody to provide snappy sound bites, gave the event short shrift. The show inside went on as planned; it is expected to earn a record-breaking $250,000 a week.

Originally posted Apr 26, 1991 Published in issue #63 Apr 26, 1991 Order article reprints
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